Seven days, 500 bikes and a unicycle

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Isaac Woods Stokes

I got dropped like a bad transmission, but thank the fat-tired deities I didn’t get beat by the guy on the damn unicycle.

Having survived the BC Bike Race (BCBR) in British Columbia and lived to tell enough tales that hometown riding buddies are threatening restraining orders on any further reminiscing, I can say for sure that fat-tired wise, forevermore there is BC BCBR, and AD BCBR.

Imagine a mobile summer camp 500-plus strong of mountain bikers riding seven straight days of epics. In Colorado it would be the equivalent of riding in Breck Day 1, Aspen Day 2, Crested Butte Day 3, etc. Average mileage of 40 miles a day and 5,000 vertical feet of climbing, mad technical, with a cast and crew that included Olympians Geoff Kabush and Catherine Pendrel, World X-Terra champion Melanie McQuaid, a cheery whitehaired retired schoolteacher named Mary born in 1947 (two years younger than my mom!), a diabetic participant who stopped to check blood sugar along the way, and a dad and 15-year-old son doing major bonding. All were inspiring.

Except the dude on the damn unicycle, that was just very wrong.

Actually, in all seriousness, Chris Holm, unicyclist extraordinaire, opened my mind again to the infinite possibilities of having fun
on wheel(s). Chris has ridden the Great Wall of China, a 6,000meter peak
in Bolivia (meters, y’all!), and appeared in multiple Banff Film Fest
flicks. He also owns a unicycle company — um, surprise — and was rocking
a two-speed internal hub. Remember, when you’re freewheeling downhill,
homeboy is always still pedaling.

Surviving
the BCBR in any way was bodacious, but the giant banana seat on Chris’
cycle must have had a cutaway for some extra large cojones. Unreal.

This event is billed as the ultimate singletrack
experience, and it’s no lie. In fact, it’s a massive understatement.
The 12-inch-wide trail mileage feels endless, with every possible
delectable variety of singletrack smorgasbord conceivable on tap. You
want blazing alpine descents? You got it. You want rolling, rooted,
low-speed techy-ness with bridges and berms amongst old growth giants
straight out of Lord of Rings? Check. You want to try your tough
guy/girl luck on luge-like courses with table top jumps and banked
corners that tattooed bros in full face helmet slice and dice? Yup. You
want to motor through babybutt-smooth, shoulder-width tunnels off green
vegetation all by your lonesome with only bear scat on the trail to
suggest any living companionship? Check. How about 10 miles straight of
off-camber, freshly skinned white roots embedded in a spongy two inches
of lime green moss? Or a three-mile edgeof-the-nose-of-the-seat granny
gear climb after 30-plus miles and four hours of cranking? Or … (insert
any variety of known riding here, because they have it). Capice? I defy
anybody in Boulder County to ride this event and express a desire for
even a “wafer-thin mint” more of singletrack. Check the M. Python
reference; it is spot-on.

Luckily
for you, all you have to do is show up and ride your spandex-clad ass
off. BCBR has everything else covered. You want gorgeous ferry crossing
coordinated and booked for 500 people? They did that. How about a couple
dozen school buses chartered and shuttling you to the ideal drop off
spot?

Affirmative.
Tents set up, breakfast and dinner catered, hot shower trucks waiting,
bike washes erected, lovely masseuses on site, coffee and burrito trucks
waiting, and beer gardens at the ready. Done, done and done well. A
note on the beer, in relation to the intensity of the riding — a
confession on my part, and warning, sensitive or younger readers, look
away — I managed to drink a pathetic three apres beers in a week on the
course, that’s how rugged it was. I’m not proud. The campground was
morgue quiet by 9 p.m. most nights, that’s how shelled folks were.

Not
only is the event superbly organized, but at every turn you are greeted
with smiling volunteers. In 300 miles of riding, I got lost only once.
The flagging and marking is that good, and directionally, I’m no walking
GPS. Once again, BCBR frees you to focus on your number one job —
turning the cranks. And it doesn’t hurt that they love you up with
roughly $500 worth of branded swag, including a jersey, rolling Dakine
bag and the coveted belt buckle.

Mountain
biking mojo, karma and pride are alive and real in Canada. The course
designers actually told us the logging companies lend them machinery to
construct trails on their land. Trail-building is high art in Canada,
and I guarantee you have never seen pride or expertise in the discipline
that is on display up North. We were warmly cheered by thousands, and
memories like pedaling by a middle school and being highfived by several
hundred jubilant 10-years-olds jumping up and down chokes a brother up
as he types.

Finally, I must also give a shout out to the onsite mechanics from Obsession Bikes — huge gracias. This
shop was in charge of servicing roughly $2 million bucks worth of
rolling thunder, and nobody missed a day because of a mechanical.
Imagine that. The owner, James, stood up at the initial Day 0 briefing
and said, “We have 12 mechanics that work all night, we can get 12 more,
and we will have you ready to race.” Not only that, but if you,
say, snapped a handlebar on the course (which I saw, crunch), they would
motor in a replacement, or if your freewheel gave out mid-day, they
would have a replacement wheelset waiting at the aid station. I wish I
could get this rock-star treatment trailside everyday.

Find
some room in your life to do this event. BC BCBR, I aspired to know how
deep I could go in the woods on my bike mentally, physically and
soulfully. AD BCBR I know.

BCBikeRace.com
is the website for all info, including deals on early entry for July
2011, and plenty of videos to visually tell the story. If you have some
question about the distance and intensity of the event, consider doing
the Challenge course instead of the Epic course, which offers more human
routes and still loads of singletrack.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com